When considering the number of networks that have rebranded this year, the list is long. TV One, TV Land, Destination America and Style, to name just a few, have each boarded the rebrandwagon this season in hopes of gaining viewership and better placement. Here’s what a few networks had to say about their motivations for the rebrand, what was entailed on the backend and where they hope the transformation will take their business.
TV One—Where Black Life Unfolds
TV One officially rebrands on August 20 and it’s the net’s first transformation in its 8 years of existence. The motivation stemmed from increased competition in the marketplace and the need for the network to differentiate itself. “Viewers have so many choices out there,” said Kenetta Bailey, evp, CMO, TV One. “We want them to understand what TV One is, and what types of programming they’re going to get from our network.” And it’s not just smaller nets with whom it’s competing these days. “In addition to networks that target African Americans, general market networks right now are really targeting black eyeballs, too,” she said. Whereas it used to be 2 or 3 networks, today you see VH1 and TBS targeting the demo as well.
The net plans to double its original programming hours between this year and next, which makes the present the perfect time “to put a stake in the ground,” said Bailey. The new tagline, “Where Black Life Unfolds,” is an attempt to signify the multifaceted nature of black life in America. “Storytelling has always been at the core, the heart of the black experience,” Bailey explained. “Black people love and appreciate great stories, the details, and how you peel back the layers and understand the nuances of whatever story you’re telling.” The look and feel they’ve dubbed “tapestry,” which follows the same logic of multilayered content. The net refreshed the logo as well. (See the network rebrand slideshow on CableFAX.com.)
Both qualitative and quantitative research informed the net’s choices. From it the team learned that brand awareness was high, but that viewers wanted to relate with the series’ characters, whether they were celebrities or a laypersons. “They expect us to take a more mature approach—less of the negativity and one sidedness that you often see on TV when it comes to black people,” said Bailey. “They wanted to see life as it really is.”
The process to get there, though expensive, is well worth it, said Bailey. And it sounds simpler than it really is, she added. It entailed passing through several iterations of the tagline and applying that to all the programming coming down the pipeline. “You’re looking at what brand filters are, what your programming filters are and making sure all the programs that you are going to create ladder up to your tagline.” The work is months in the making (TV One began the process late last year), and it requires getting viewers, advertisers and affiliates on board.
MAVTV also rolled out a new look to highlight its expanded programming. In September, Lucas Oil purchased the network, which at the time targeted younger to middle-aged males. Post-rebrand the focus is on middle class American families with an interest in an active lifestyle. According to MAVTV pres Bob Patison, the net’s previous iteration was too niche. “We realized the growth potential for something that specific was limited. We wanted to grow and be comparable to an AMC, a TBS, something of that caliber and we needed a programming format that appealed to a wider audience.” In addition, MAVTV worked with a large group of Lucas Oil partners, such as Geico and Continental Tire, to ensure their target audiences were in line with the network’s.
Currently originals make up 40% of programming, equal parts scripted and non-scripted, but more will roll out in September. “The goal is to have at least 50% exclusive and original by the end of this year,” Patison said. Within 2 years, he hopes the split will be close to 70% original and 30% licensed content.
Patison hopes the boost of original content and the net’s broader appeal will achieve the rebrand’s most important goal: greater distribution. It’s carried by 7 of the top 10, but is clamoring for DirecTV, AT&T and Cox. The issue, he said, is positioning. “Up to this point in time, because the network has been a male-dominated, niche network, we’ve been up on 2nd level sports tiers and premium HD tiers.” He’d like to the net to occupy a basic tier position and reach a goal of 12 million households by the end of this year, up from the current 6.5 million. “After that we’re hoping to double our size in 2 year increments.”
From a financial standpoint, the net is hoping to break even by 2015. A lot of money was spent on building a studio, editing bays, relocating all operations to Corona, Calif, and hiring new staff for marketing, affiliate relations and programming. And a lot of money still needs to be invested, the bulk of which will go to original and acquired programming costs. But many of the net’s distribution contracts come up for renewal in 2015, Patison said. “We’re seeing ad sales and ratings starting to trend upward.” Until then, the net will likely require subsidies from Lucas Oil products.
TV Land—Laugh More
For TV Land, according to evp, Marketing and Creative, Kim Rosenblum, “We passed the point where we needed a makeover.” The fully distributed network, founded in 1996, is seeking a broader appeal, anchored by its sitcoms—particularly its originals. “TV Land, as it was conceived, was for people who loved retro television, and the tradition of loving sitcoms,” said Rosenblum. “It’s about combining acquisitions with original sitcoms, so that TV Land brand is broadened.”
The net used research to develop its originals, such as “Hot in Cleveland,” and in doing so realized that many viewers didn’t realize the net had originals. “That was the queue that we needed to evolve the mark and be a little bit louder about the fact that these are new. And if you have a new logo that’s one of the strongest ways you can do that.”
Internally, after several months of planning, they came up with the “Laugh More” tagline. Or rather, two people did. “You know you have a good line when it comes up twice,” said Rosenblum. Interestingly, she admits she didn’t feel a “burning need” to change the logo, but once they got going with the process it was clear they were on to something. “I think sometimes when you’re in it you can’t say this is what we need,” she explained. “But sometimes it’s the work that reveals itself to you.”